Seanad debates

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Report Stage

 

11:45 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Before we commence, I remind Members that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage each amendment must be seconded. Amendments Nos. 1, in the names of Senators Feargal Quinn and Sean D. Barrett, 18 and 25 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 1:


In page 3, line 6, after “1997;” to insert “to amend The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Charters Amendment) Act 2003;”.
I welcome the Minister and wish to be associated with the sympathy expressed by the Leas-Chathaoirleach on the death of the former Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mr. Joe Walsh.
After Committee Stage I had expected more amendments in the Minister's name, but other than amendment No. 20, the Bill is back before the House in virtually the same form and this is the Seanad's last chance to discuss it.
This is a strange Bill which it is widely believed has been drafted to assist the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, although the name of that institution is not and was not mentioned on the last occasion. The danger in not mentioning in the Bill the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is that it makes possible for the Bill to be used by a different body without the former's standards and reputation. Such a body could find loopholes - that is what lawyers do - to achieve accreditation and a future Minister might try to correct the situation. I have in mind the procedures on which the Department is working in the case of the technological universities Bill which will ensure an institution will have to go through steps thoroughly and methodically in order to become a university. In the worst case scenario under this Bill an institution could receive a licence to operate and give the Irish higher education sector a bad name by not going through the thorough procedures in place and embodied in the technological universities Bill with the Higher Education Authority, HEA. A Minister would then have to withdraw the licence and we would then enter the area of compensation and the payment of money that is badly needed in the primary education sector and elsewhere in the system.

So that is the context. By not being specific to institutions and by not having a licensing system, we create danger. That is why amendments Nos. 1, 18 and 25, which the Leas-Chathaoirleach has asked us to take together, refer to explicitly saying that this applies to the Royal College of Surgeons. The issues that then arise would be, as Senator Power previously noted, the issue of why it should not be called a medical university because that is what it does. The issue then arises as to why we have an institution that is a university when it is outside Ireland but not inside Ireland. They are substantive issues and we would be delighted to debate those with the Minister.

The other issue arising is the question of whether it would be better to educate the medical profession in a wider university context or on its own. I am sure we will have views on that one way or the other. If, as people are convinced, the purpose of the legislation is to facilitate the Royal College of Surgeons in its development plan, let us discuss that. I think it would probably have wide support. However, by not mentioning it, do we create a loophole and possibility of claims arising against the State in the future and probably unworthy people by Irish university standards ruining, I do not like the word "brand name", the reputation and good name of Ireland? That is why it is in amendment Nos. 1 and 18.

In amendment No. 18, we seek to make explicit that we are talking about the Royal College of Surgeons. Amendment No. 25 is the third amendment on this list. It aims to draw attention to the fact that the best and I would say the only candidate at the moment that meets this criterion is the Royal College of Surgeons. We will go through the other criteria in the other amendments. If in any case, they fall short of the standard of the international reputation of the Royal College of Surgeons, are we creating problems for future Seanaid and future Ministers by not being explicitly tight in our definitions and the procedures? It takes a long time to build up a university reputation and that is what we must defend here for the sake of students - the status of Irish degrees. If I may summarise, the first three amendments aim to make explicit that the intention in this legislation is to facilitate the Royal College of Surgeons. Why not say so?

11:50 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Does Senator Quinn wish to second the amendment?

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

I do not need to repeat everything that Senator Barrett said but we had a very good debate here previously. We understood that we were being listened to and heard and that attention would be given to the cases made. To come back on Report Stage with absolutely nothing seems strange. It is not the aim of this House to just be a talking shop and not achieve something. Senator Barrett touched upon instances which I am aware have occurred in the past, usually in the US, but I am sure it happens in many other places, where degrees or doctorates have been awarded to people in return for a sum of money, which may be only $100 or $200. These are institutions we would not know, some of which have very unusual names and some of which have very prestigious names. People are able to claim that they have a doctorate from those colleges.

We brought this up before and I would like the Minister to put my mind at rest. My concern is that by not mentioning the Royal College of Surgeons, there is a danger that we are opening the door to allow institutions in other parts of the world to establish themselves as Irish universities and to be able to offer these so-called qualifications without coming near Ireland. Senator Barrett has explained that very well so I will not repeat what he said. In particular, I will not repeat the cases made on Second and Committee Stages. The case is well made. I would like to hear the Minister say that she has thought this one through and that the reason for coming to Report Stage is to make sure that we have an opportunity to have another look at something like this. I believe it is worthy of consideration.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Does Senator Craughwell wish to speak?

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I support Senators Barrett and Quinn. I have grave concerns about this Bill not specifying the educational institution I believe it has been designed to facilitate, namely, the Royal College of Surgeons. We already have one third-level institution in this country which is marketing its services on a for-profit basis and my fear is that some of the very high-powered international universities that market their services all over the world would come to Ireland and use it as a base or hub to market their services. I am also concerned that the bar has not been set as high as it has been set for a technological university to establish itself. I ask the Minister to consider restricting this Bill to the Royal College of Surgeons and ensuring that we do not allow Ireland to become a hub for sharp practice among those institutions internationally which would not aspire to the same standards we find in our fine national universities and Trinity College Dublin. I ask the Minister to reconsider that.

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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I also support the remarks made by Senators Quinn, Barrett and Craughwell about their concerns about this Bill. Indeed I made such remarks myself on Committee Stage. It is clear to everybody here in this House that this is a Bill for the Royal College of Surgeons and it should say that. We should be up-front about what this Bill is actually designed to achieve. It is called the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and 90% of the provisions relate to the Royal College of Surgeons so it is a bit of a farce to call it a miscellaneous Bill and not spell out what it is actually directed at.

I reiterate that I accept that the Royal College of Surgeons has a difficulty marketing itself abroad when it is competing against institutions from other countries that can call themselves universities when it cannot do so. However, our other institutions face exactly the same problem. The quality of the education provided by Dublin Institute of Technology, Waterford Institute of Technology and other institutes of technology is far superior to that offered by some institutions that can call themselves universities in the UK and other countries. This is not the right way to approach it. We have a strategy on the internationalisation of third-level education, much of which has not been implemented. There are other things we can do to make sure we are marketing our third-level institutions coherently and the quality of education but it must be done on a message of quality.

There is something deeply duplicitous about saying that an institution is not good enough or does not meet the criteria to be called a university in Ireland but that it is okay to sell it as a university to students in the US and Asia. Those students would be well within their rights to say "Hang on a second, why are you selling me one thing if you're not selling it to your Irish students on exactly the same basis?" It looks dodgy.

I accept that there is an issue that the Minister is trying to address but it is the wrong way of going about it. As has been pointed out, if a difficulty does arise, it reflects on the entire Irish education system and people will say that the way this came about is a bit weird and ask whether there is something odd about the fact that the institutes have been going through a long and painful process to get university status while another institution was able to get a Bill drafted just to deal with its specific concerns. This is a significant and deeply concerning departure in Irish education.

I would love to work with the Minister. I know the university Senators, Senator Craughwell and others would love to do so as well to find the right way to address this issue because I accept that the quality of the educational provision in the Royal College of Surgeons is top class. I have raised issues and concerns about human rights in the countries in which it operates but I do accept that the educational aspect of its degrees is probably far superior to that offered by medical schools elsewhere.

As I proposed last time, the way to deal with that is to develop a criteria specifically for a medical university for which it could qualify at home and abroad, without creating a special situation of having a university abroad but not at home. It is unfair and I object to that in the strongest possible terms.

Like Senator Quinn, I thought the matter would be addressed, given the dialogue we had across the House about some of our genuine concerns. We tabled amendments opposing the sections which refer to the RCSI and I have been told the House will not have an opportunity to vote on them because they have all been ruled out of order. Amendments Nos. 5, 13 to 15, inclusive, and 17 tabled by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have all been ruled out of order and we will not be able to vote on the individual section amendments we tabled. That is unfortunate, in terms of the democratic process in the House, and making sure everybody has an opportunity to brief themselves and vote accordingly during the debate.

12:00 pm

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I note Senator Power's point, but unfortunately the Cathaoirleach has made a ruling on that. Does Senator Reilly wish to speak?

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I support the comments of other Senators. Having listened to the debate very carefully on Second and Committee Stages, we remain unconvinced of the merits of allowing an institution such as the RCSI which, it appears, has no trouble in attracting international students to apply for places, to qualify. If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. This should be called the RCSI Bill.

As I mentioned, the only institution which will qualify under this Bill is the RCSI and it is disingenuous, to say the least, that the Government will attempt to present the Bill in a way which would make the average reader think that any institution could avail of it. If the RCSI wishes to identify as a university the correct thing for it to do would be to, as was mentioned, go through the appropriate channels and procedures in order for that to happen, as other educational institutions in Ireland have to do and are in the process of doing. Otherwise, there is a sense of duplicity to the whole affair. It is not fair. We share the concerns expressed by other Senators, in particular those of Senator Power, about what would happen if students arrived in Ireland and realised they were not attending a university in the traditional sense of the word.

Senator Craughwell mentioned the issue of TTIP to me and what would happen if we awarded a licence which was then revoked. Could a body go to a court of arbitration and be awarded compensation for profits lost? It is an important concern. Had our amendments been allowed, I am sure Senator Craughwell would have raised these issues. They are important considerations which need to be addressed.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I thank all Senators for their contributions. I acknowledge and thank them for the constructive debate we had on Committee Stage. I will give some explanation as to why I did not table amendments on Report Stage. I had not at any stage indicated that I would table an amendment on this issue. I will table amendments on protecting the names of Irish universities, and perhaps others, but we have not been able to draft them sufficiently well to bring them before the Seanad. Amendments made in the Dáil will have to come before the Seanad because the Bill was initiated here. I will address those issues when we deal with amendments at a later stage. I regret that I did not have time to properly draft amendments on Report Stage in the Seanad.

I do not think we can introduce a piece of legislation that is confined to one institution which, as Senators correctly pointed out, will be able to benefit, namely, the RCSI. I do not think it is right that we would pre-empt any other institution from reaching the standards that would be required to use the term "university" and it would only apply outside the State, as we discussed. It would be open to other institutions, if they fulfil the strict criteria involved.

Section 2(1) of the Bill refers to doctorate level under the Irish qualifications framework. There is no question that another country could decide that an institution qualifies to be a university. It has to qualify under the Irish qualifications framework, through the HEA, and be at doctorate level. The criteria only relate to bodies outside the State, therefore the title can only be used outside the State.

The RCSI is likely to benefit in the immediate future, but it would not be correct to have a piece of law which excluded any other institution in the future which might reach the strict qualifications and make the case to call itself a university outside the State for the purposes, as Senator Power said, of international students and internationalisation which, I am sure Senators will agree, are positive for the country. I am glad Senator Power clarified her point. I do not think anybody is questioning the standards of the RCSI, rather, the question is whether other institutions might not meet the required standards. The Bill is very specific; they have to reach the qualifications within the Irish framework of qualifications.

On calling it the Royal College of Surgeons Bill, the Bill is not just about calling an institution a university outside the State. It contains an important element regarding PLC students being eligible for student grants. Everybody would want to make sure that we do not exclude further education students from obtaining grants.

Another element, about which I know there are differing views, is the use of information for league tables, something we want to exclude. We will debate the issue later. As the Bill contains three elements we would not want to change its name.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Is the amendment being pressed?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for her explanation about the shortage of time, drafting and so on. We accept and are grateful for that. We thought the Bill would come back in a different form because of our previous discussions. Her explanation is genuinely accepted.

Section 1 states,"“education provider” means a person in the State who provides a programme of education and training", which seems to open up the kind of loopholes to which Senator Craughwell referred. Perhaps Report Stage of the Bill should have been delayed in order to incorporate the amendments we suggested during the previous debate. The loopholes remain.

I wish to press the amendment. The RCSI is further down the route. The Minister wants to do other things. We have not, due to the drafting problems, incorporated protections against the loopholes to which other Senators referred.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 24.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Feargal Quinn; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.

Amendment declared lost.

12:10 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Amendment No. 2 in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 2:


In page 3, to delete lines 14 and 15 and substitute the following:“ “education provider” means for the purposes of this legislation an educational institution in the State which provides a programme of education and training at levels 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the National Qualifications Framework;”.
I welcome the Minister back to the House. As I should have said before, I note that if amendments are made to the Bill when it comes before the Dáil, the legislation will come back to this House. That gives us a new context in which to examine the amendments before us.
Amendment No. 2 replaces the definition of an “education provider”, which means a person in the State who provides a programme of education and training, with the wording proposed in the amendment.
The Minister knows the concerns of the House that "person" is too loose a definition. Could it bring in the wrong kinds of people? I accept what the Minister said about the existing section 3. Amendment No. 2 is there as a suggestion, if it is of any value to the Minister as she brings the Bill to the Dáil and possibly back here. That is the spirit in which the amendment is offered. It is a tighter definition of an education provider than the current one.
Amendment No. 3 gives a definition of “higher education” as defined under the National Qualifications Framework. If those safeguards, to which many Members of the House have referred, are required, do we need the kind of drafting in those amendments to put forth what they are worth? They may be helpful to the Minister.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I support what Senator Barrett has said. These amendments have been tabled in order to help the Minister. The Minister has experience of the Seanad herself and knows that we are not all that uppity - although we are a little bit uppity - as to believe that if we initiate a Bill in this House it is a pity to take it away and have it changed in the other House. That is the way things go on, however. I would prefer to see changes made here to a Bill that is initiated here. I did not think there was a need for a huge rush to get this particular Bill through, but there probably is. The Royal College of Surgeons certainly requires that.

The two amendments before us are certainly worthy of consideration. I hope the Minister will consider them, if not in this House, then when the Bill reaches the Dáil.

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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I support Senator Quinn's comment about not amending the Bill here. I understand the Minister has explained that it was not ready in time in the Department, but I genuinely do not understand why we have the Bill back if the amendments are not ready. Perhaps the Minister could elaborate on why there is a rush to get this legislation through.
To be fair, there is a lot of education expertise in this House that does not exist in the Dáil. People frequently tell me that, on education issues in particular, because we have the expertise of university Senators and others who take a particular interest in education, people pick up on things here that are not picked up on in the Dáil. Language is better understood and we have more deliberative and intelligent debates around language and wording. It is unfortunate that we will not get to do that concerning the issues that have been raised by the university Senators previously. We thought we might be discussing those amendments today.
The Minister said that if the Dáil amends the Bill it will come back here for us to discuss amendments made by the Dáil, but what if the Dáil misses those points? The Minister will be tabling amendments and will discuss them with Deputies, but she will not have Senators Barrett, Quinn, Crown, Craughwell and others who have a particular interest in education.
The Minister's predecessors have said during education debates here that there is a standard of interest and expertise in this House that is useful in formulating legislation. I will be talking to our party's Dáil spokesperson on education about the language that is put forward in the Dáil, and I am sure others will also. It is unfortunate, however, that the university Senators will not be part of that debate, unless the Bill reverts to the Seanad if the Dáil amends it. In that case we can discuss the changes, but otherwise we will not have an opportunity to raise those points when the Bill finally comes back to us at the very end. It is a missed opportunity.
I know the Minister did not commence this Bill, but it was published on a Thursday and discussed here the following Wednesday. I happened to be away for work at the time. I had left when the schedule came in, and our Whip's office phoned me to say there was an education Bill on Wednesday. I had no idea what it was, so we had to scramble around. The best I could get was an article in The Irish Timesthat reported that it was a Bill for the Royal College of Surgeons. That was the first time I heard that it mainly concerned that college. The Bill was published and debated in this House within a matter of days, but that is not the best way to make policy. Best practice is for the Minister to consult with people, flag that the Bill is coming, publish it and give us some time to consider it before it arrives in the House. I hope that is how we will deal with education legislation in future.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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The amendments that I will be tabling in the Dáil arise from the debate in the Seanad. I therefore hope I have benefitted from the expertise of Members of this House. I have the greatest of respect for the Seanad and, as Senator Quinn said, I served here for five years. The expertise here will certainly feed into the amendments I will bring to the Dáil. The Bill will come back here because it has been initiated here.

My concern with specifying the levels on the National Qualifications Framework, as proposed in these amendments, is that one would be putting the specific levels into primary legislation, whereas in the legislation on the framework itself that is not done. If we put in the specific levels, therefore, and if somehow or other they change in any way - if, for example, further levels are established, which could well happen in future - we will have stitched in specific numbers concerning levels 7, 8, 9 and 10 in this legislation. If the QQI levels change for any reason, which they could do in future in terms of classification, we would then have to amend this legislation.

The Bill identifies that a body has to have reached a certain level in the Irish qualifications framework in order to qualify to call itself a university abroad. While this relates to the previous amendment, the awarding bodies of institutions that would be entitled to call themselves universities abroad have to have the power to award degrees at doctoral level in Ireland. We are therefore talking about a narrow range of institutions. They must currently, or at a particular time, have the power to award at doctoral level under our qualifications framework - not anybody else's qualifications framework. I wish to be clear on that.

I cannot accept these amendments because we would be stitching in the actual current levels at which doctorates, for example, are awarded. That could change, however, in terms of the qualifications framework in future.

12:20 pm

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I thank the Minister. I will not be moving the amendments. I gathered the Minister will be moving some in the Dáil and they will come back here. As the Minister has said, the Seanad debate on the last occasion will inform how this Bill goes forward. Therefore, I will not press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 4 in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 to 12, inclusive, are related. Amendment Nos. 7, 8 and 9 are physical alternatives to amendment No. 6. Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 to 12, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. I call Senator Barrett. Ar aghaidh leat on amendment No. 4

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 4:


In page 3, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:
“ “universities” means bodies specified under section 4 of the Universities Act 1997;"
Amendment No. 4 brings universities within the meaning of the Universities Act. That is self-explanatory.
Amendment No. 6 is to delete a section of page 4 of the Bill. This amendment was somewhat controversial on the last occasion. Marketing programmes of education is a specified purpose of the Bill, rather than education itself. I think it was the marketing aspect that annoyed people. We specify in our amendment No. 6 the provision of a programme of education and training and research services. The concern was that there would be international marketing programmes. They appear very high up in the Government's Bill. We put the education aspect first.
Amendment No. 4 is on universities. Amendment No. 6 is to put the educational purposes up front rather than its marketing.
Amendment No. 12 is the third one I was looking for. I think it is a matter that the Minister has referred to. Amendment No. 12 states, "that the Minister is satisfied that the name of the proposed university is distinct from any existing university in the State", in case somebody sets up "Trinity University" or one that could be confused with an already established one. The Minister has already dealt with that in her introductory remarks.
The background to what we have in these amendments is to give a licensing regime which will ensure - as the Minister, Senator Power and others have said - that these newly-validated institutions will meet the criteria that are being applied to technological universities and will meet the standards set by Irish universities over many hundreds of years, to build up the international reputation that they have. As Senator Quinn has stated, it is hoped that these amendments are of help to the Minister bringing the Bill before the Dáil. That is the spirit in which they are intended. They are not intended in a spirit of confrontation. If they are of help, they are on offer for that purpose.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I second the amendment. I do not wish to repeat what Senator Barrett has stated but the aim of this is to avoid confusion and help the Minister. I hope it is taken into consideration by her, if not in this House certainly in the Dáil.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I thank the Senators again for their very helpful contributions in these amendments. I will come to the latter ones in a couple of minutes. In terms of the term "marketing", the central purpose is education rather than marketing. The reason the universities want to use the title is so they can identify to students outside of Ireland the high standard that they reach in terms of the degrees and doctorates that they award. If one likes, to market is the reason they want to use the title or why they would like to use the title outside the State.

I want to explain a little about the word "persons" . This comes into amendments Nos. 7 and 8. My officials have consulted again with the parliamentary draftsman in relation to this word "persons" to confirm that "person" is the appropriate legal term, although we might see person as maybe not appropriate. However, it is the appropriate legal term for an institution or other body in this context as provided for under the Interpretation Act 2005. Part 4 of the Act provides for the general rules of construction in an enactment and section 18(c) states that "'Person' shall be read as importing a body corporate (whether a corporation aggregate or a corporation sole) and an unincorporated body of persons, as well as an individual, and the subsequent use of any pronoun in place of a further use of 'person' shall be read accordingly". Therefore, the Interpretation Act 2005 defines the general use of certain terminology in legislation. That is why we use the term "person". It has an understanding within law, as defined in that particular Act. That is to explain why "person" is deemed to be the most appropriate language to use.

I want to give a definite commitment that I will bring forward an amendment with regard to the Senators' proposed amendment No. 12. I fully understand the Senators' concern to protect the names of the Irish universities. I propose to bring forward a Government amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil to ensure that where the description "university" is being used as part of a title of an institution, the Minister will have to approve that usage. My officials are engaging with the draftman as to the most appropriate wording to use in that regard. I thank Senators Barrett and Quinn for that.

The Senators were also concerned that we would publish the observations of An tÚdarás. That is dealt with in their amendment No. 11. They suggested that the observations of An tÚdarás should be published. My understanding is that An tÚdarás will simply be saying, "you qualify" or "you do not qualify". Its observations will be fairly straightforward. It is a yes or a no. Detail will not be given in the observations. Nevertheless, I will look to see if we can incorporate that request as well.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for her remarks. When we are discussing "persons", there have been persons and there are lots of egos in Irish higher education who identify themselves as the institution. Modesty would not be one of their leading characteristics.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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We would not encourage that.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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That is what occurred to me when the Minister was replying on that issue. However, it does give protection if this were to go wrong and some person was saying he or she was denied a licence to be an Irish university. I thank the Minister for the explanation and her thoughts. We will go through them individually but I will not be pressing the amendments. We will take the amendments as the Leas-Chathaoirleach indicate them to us.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 5, in the name of Senators Cullinane, O'Reilly and Power, is out of order. It is a joint amendment between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. That ruling has already been made.

Amendment No. 5 not moved.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 6:


In page 4, to delete lines 1 to 11 and substitute the following:
“(3) The specified purpose referred to in subsection (1) is to enter into an arrangement with any person outside the State for the purposes of participating in a collaborative project relating to—(a) the provision of a programme of education and training where the programme is
provided in whole or in part by the authorised provider, or
(b) research services of the authorised provider.”.
The amendment is not being pressed.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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It is not Senator Cullinane's amendment. Does he wish to comment on it?

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I was hoping to comment on the previous sets of amendments but unfortunately I could not get in. I can deal with the substantive point in this amendment if that is okay.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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On amendment No. 6?

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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Yes. Senator Reilly has already articulated Sinn Féin's opposition to this.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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It has already been discussed but I will let you have a brief comment on it. It was already discussed with a previous amendment.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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Perhaps if the Leas-Chathaoirleach moved to the next amendment.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I will let the Senator in when I get an opportunity. Thank you, Senator Cullinane.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 7 in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn arises out of Committee proceedings already discussed with amendment No. 4.

Is it being pressed?

12:30 pm

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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No; we have received a very comprehensive account of what "a person" is.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 8 is in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn and has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is it being pressed?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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No. The purpose of amendment No. 8 is to suggest, again for consideration, the use of the word "higher" before "education" in the Bill. That is the suggestion made.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 9 is in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn and has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is it being pressed?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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Amendment No. 9 refers to the proportion of the course which should be undertaken within this jurisdiction. I wonder whether somebody could lease 99% of a course. The legislation includes the words "in whole or in part" and we propose the insertion of the word "majority". Again, the amendment is proposed for the purposes of consideration when the Bill is brought before the Dáil. It concerns how much of an Irish validated degree course should be undertaken in this jurisdiction. I give it to the Minister and her advisers for their perusal.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 10 is in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn and, like earlier amendments, has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is it being pressed?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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No, it is not. How long does it take to decide whether an institution is a university? A period of three months has been specified.

Amendment No. 10 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 11 is in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn and has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Is it being pressed?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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As it has already been discussed and the Minister has responded, no, it is not being pressed.

Amendment No. 11 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 12 is in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn and has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. What is Senator Sean D. Barrett's position on it?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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It is not being pressed as the Minister is drafting her amendment for consideration in the Dáil.

Amendment No. 12 not moved.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 13 is in the names of Senators David Cullinane, Kathryn Reilly, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, Averil Power and Diarmuid Wilson. It has been ruled out of order, but Senator David Cullinane wants to make a brief comment. I cannot do anything about the issue. Senator Averil Power has ably made her points known, but I will allow Senator David Cullinane to make a brief comment, if he so wishes.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I wish to make a brief comment with the indulgence of the Chair and the Minister. As I said, Sinn Féin is opposed to the Bill for a number of reasons. First, it is a little disingenuous to say the Bill is not about the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland being able to operate as a university outside the State and that this provision is open to all education providers, as I do not think that is the case. It is about the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

I wish to make the following point, about which I have spoken to the Minister. The Government side tabled an Adjournment motion on the matter. We have a number of applications for categorisation as technological universities. Such institutions are going through a painstaking process of having to meet criteria, which is as it should be. The criteria need to be set and the bar and benchmarks need to be set very high. One wants an institute to meet these targets to take its place among the top universities in the State, which is as it should be. The difficulty is that different rules are being applied to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Why is it not subject to the same level of scrutiny to which the institutes of technology and other institutions are subject in their quest to secure university status? That is a genuine concern.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The point has been made. Technically, I should not have allowed the Senator to comment.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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Perhaps the Minister might respond.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister might respond at a later stage because all of the amendments have been ruled out of order. I am not being difficult. Amendments No. 13 to 15, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 13 to 15, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 16:


In page 7, line 19, to delete “a special interest or” and substitute “an international reputation and”.
This amendment deals with the appeals board. The provision states the Minister can make the choice "from among persons who have a special interest in...". The purpose of the amendment is to ensure it is of a higher standard. Rather like what Senator David Cullinane said, we want to have a person with an international reputation to chair and be a member of the appeals board. As the Senator said, the institutes of technology are going through a very demanding process. Therefore, it is not right to have an appeals board comprising persons with qualifications who are defined as having "a special interest in...". I might have a special interest in medicine, but I have no qualifications to say whether a place should qualify as such a university. The amendment seeks further safeguards. Having an international reputation would be ideal. In Irish education a lot will depend on the calibre of those making decisions.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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The term "special interest" has been used in previous legislation. For example, the term is used in the qualifications legislation. I will look at the issue to see if we can do something about it in the Dáil. The problem in using the term "an international reputation" is that one could have a good, as well as a bad, international reputation. There are dangers in using the phrase. If we were to change the wording used in the Bill, it would need to be more precise than what has been proposed.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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Obviously, we agree with the Minister that one should have a good, rather than a bad, international reputation. I appreciate that she is considering the suggestion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Amendment No. 17 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Amendment No. 18 is in the names of Senators Sean D. Barrett and Feargal Quinn and has already been discussed with amendment No. 1. Is it being pressed?

Amendment No. 18 not moved.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 are physical alternatives and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 19:


In page 8, to delete lines 16 to 39, and in page 9, to delete lines 1 to 16.
Recently the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform came to the House to debate legislation to extend freedom of information provisions. That is the spirit in which we propose this amendment. I am worried about placing any restriction on access to information. The spirit of the time is to open up access to information. For example, whistleblower material will be presented to the Committee of Public Accounts today, while the secret agreements made on minimal corporate tax rates are being opened up for discussion by the OECD. That proves that this is a time to allow access to more information. In fact, it was part of the reforming agenda of the Government to provide more information.
I will outline my concerns about this section of the Bill. Section 7(4)(ii) includes the words "education or training facilities". Can we not find out where the laboratories, computers, libraries and sports fields are located? Is this not information to which parents should have access when deciding where to send their children to school?
There is an aversion to league tables. It seems that because of this aversion we threw out a lot of other useful things. Also, some of the information is needed by the Minister to operate DEIS schools. Information on schools should only be restricted in very limited circumstances such as in asking how did candidate Blogs did in the leaving certificate examinations. It is good to release the rest of the information on schools, including on qualifications and facilities. On the one hand, there is the protection of people's genuine right to privacy, while, on the other, we have wrongly restricted access to information on facilities such as those I have mentioned.

Is that section in the spirit of the times? Do we need to let out more information? Does this help the community to become more involved in schools and help parents in the choices they make? Do we need to be tighter in protecting an individual's privacy while putting out information which would make schools perform better, which is what we all want? That is the purpose of the section.

12:40 pm

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I second the amendment. At a time when almost everything is moving towards more and more information being made freely available, on this occasion it seems to be a step backwards. I can understand one or two of the points that have been made by Senator Sean D. Barrett, but it seems to be far too broad, far too wide, and I urge the Minister to seriously reconsider restricting the amount from the point of view of the information people require.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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To clarify, I am fully in favour of the extensions the Government has made to the remit of the freedom of information Bill, but in this case, if one looks at section 7 of the Bill, it is just bringing it into line with the Education Act, 1998. It is only the information specified in that legislation, that is, academic information on results. It refers to the information specified that would allow for league tables to be produced. In other words, as successive Governments have agreed, we do not want to facilitate league tables which we believe would not be good for the education system and would not serve the needs of students or schools. It only refers to that level of information; it is not about other general information on schools. For example, the information we have on DEIS schools would not be included. Prescribed public bodies are provided for, whereby one can release or share assessment and examination data with other public bodies for the purposes of research. For the purposes of research and information, certain prescribed public bodies can be given information, subject to ministerial approval or direction. This is not about facilitating the drawing up of league tables which we consider would be damaging. It is not about withholding information from parents and school communities but rather about preventing the use of data in a way that would not serve parents, students or the education system. That is my view and I think it has been the view of successive Governments.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for her comments. I take it from the reference to "education or training facilities" in section 7 that the numbers of computers and laboratories and items of equipment used, sports fields, libraries and books will not be covered by a refusal of access to certain information. Perhaps it might be considered that if we need facilities, it would be better for us to have the information available. It might even help the Minister in her dealings with the Minister for Finance. The subsection seems to be at odds with what the Minister was saying, since it conceals the lack of facilities under the heading of refusal of access to certain information.

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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The issue is that the language in section 7(4) is broad in that it refers to information in relation to:


(i) recognised schools in respect of the academic achievement of students, or
(ii) education or training facilities in respect of the academic achievement of learners...
"Education or training facilities" is extremely broad and covers everything that happens within a school environment. I am reassured by the fact that the language used on the next page in section 7(4), paragraphs I and II, is more specific, stating the specified information includes:
without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing—
(I) the overall results or outcomes in any period of time of students in a recognised school or learners in an education or training facility in an examination or assessment, or
(II) the comparative overall results or outcomes in any period of time of students in different recognised schools or learners in different education or training facilities in an examination or assessment,
It is clear from the later language used that it is aimed at academic results and information that would allow the media, in particular, to compare academic results. In the earlier language used, "including but not limited to", it is more specific that the intention is that it be only about academic results, but because it only includes academic results, it gives the Minister power under the regulations to have it broader than this. I think the Minister has made it clear that her intention is only to prevent league table results.
It is welcome that more information is now available from schools and that inspection reports - whole school evaluations, etc. - are published online, but we still have a very under-developed system when it comes to information. I do not agree with comparisons of crude examination results because it is amazing for a child from a disadvantaged area who is the first in a family to sit the leaving certificate examinations to get a C. Perhaps he or she has had fantastic teachers to help him or her to get up to that grade, which is a huge achievement for him or her. It would be wrong to compare that result crudely with results from another school where all of the children come from well-off backgrounds. It would not capture the fact that some students might not be academic but may excel in sports, the creative arts, or other such areas.
It would be crude and unfair to compare students on a purely academic basis, but there is still a huge gap in time between one whole school evaluation report and the next. I am not even sure if every school has been covered at this stage under that process which has been ongoing for some years. Some of the language used in the inspection reports verges on the conservative. It can be very subtle because the inspectors are trying to congratulate a school on the good things it is doing and sometimes it takes a trained eye to actually spot the criticism in what is being said about other areas - "There is room for improvement in maths" and so on. We have some way to go in that regard. Parents need more information and we need more transparency about schools. I do not agree with league tables, but I ask the Minister to take on this issue as a priority in her brief in terms of the information we can provide for parents that would be helpful and make them better informed in the choices they are making for their students, not just the crude academic results.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I thank the Senators for their very constructive interventions. To clarify again, at the bottom of page 8 of the Bill it is stated the specified data are those "which would enable the compilation of information" - it is specific information that would enable the compilation of league tables - "in relation to the comparative performance of [...] recognised schools [...] or [...] education or training facilities". The reason the term "education or training facilities" is used is that, for example, education and training boards, ETBs, have places where examinations are held that are not actually schools - they could be Youthreach centres or other institutions run by ETBs which are not specifically schools but in which examinations would be held. That is why they are described as "education or training facilities". This does not, therefore, refer to the education or training facilities within individual schools but the actual institution that runs courses and carries out the examinations. I hope that is clear and think Senator Averil Power was helpful in further clarifying other elements of the legislation.

I failed in my original intervention to say the proposed amendment No. 20 was a technical amendment brought forward by the Government to update the reference to the Freedom of Information Bill 2014 which has now been enacted.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I thank the Minister.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I move amendment No. 20:


In page 9, lines 15 and 16, to delete “Freedom of Information Act 1997” and substitute “Freedom of Information Act 2014”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 21:


In page 9, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following: “8. The Minister shall report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on an annual basis on the use and extent of voluntary contributions by schools with a view to phasing them out.”.
These amendments were discussed on Committee Stage. Their purpose was to amend the current legislation in order that schools would be required to make available information to parents on voluntary contributions in the same way that information was available for State funding allocations. The second amendment, No. 22, was to further compel the Minister to report to the Dáil on the practice of seeking voluntary contributions.

The reason these amendments were resubmitted is the Minister mentioned on Committee Stage that she would introduce an education (admission to schools) Bill to deal with admissions and fees. A parent and student charter is forthcoming but there are concerns about the issue of voluntary contribution and the huge costs faced by parents and families. Many schools use voluntary contributions extensively to plug gaps in school funding and in some cases children are excluded from activities or have lockers withheld when such charges are not paid. I seek more information on when the legislation on this will be introduced and more details on the parent and student charter. There is a fear that schools will be let off the hook on this for a while and many hard-pressed families will suffer in the interim. The educations of young people should not suffer because parents cannot pay voluntary contributions.

12:50 pm

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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I second the amendment.

It is important that there be greater transparency in the area of voluntary contributions. Parents face great difficulties on this and many are not in favour of them - they are classed as voluntary but many parents feel they have no choice. This was highlighted previously in the education committee when we discussed the issue. Some schools have a system where a pupil will not be given a locker key, or the like, until a voluntary contribution is paid. I understand that schools are in a difficult situation due to capitation cuts and so on - they are massively underfunded on a day-to-day basis. What are school principals supposed to do when, due to insufficient capitation, they do not have sufficient money to pay for light, heat and basic necessities? Principals and teachers are caught between a rock and a hard place as they would prefer schools not to seek voluntary contributions. Voluntary contributions contradict constitutional commitments to free education. This is a big issue and greater transparency is required.

Another problem in recent years is that schools that do not receive a minor works grant end up seeking more funding from parents. In such circumstances, parents dip into their pockets to pay for minor building issues in schools that should be covered by a minor works grant. Will the Minister confirm whether there will be a minor works grant in the current school year? Parents face real pressure when they are asked to pay for broken radiators and minor problems that arise.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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I indicated last time that I agree with the Senators that there should be as much transparency as possible and better communication between schools and parents. I generally support this principle but I do not think this amendment is appropriate. As Senator Reilly noted, we are working on the education (admission to schools) Bill and are close to publication. We are engaging with parliamentary draftsmen and the Office of the Attorney General to finalise proposals on the Bill and, among other things, it will prohibit the charging of any fees or contributions as part of a school's admissions process. Schools will not be allowed to charge a fee for applications, in other words. I agree that greater transparency is required and it was noted that we will publish a parent and student charter.

I agree with the principle of what the Senators seek but I do not think this Bill is the appropriate place to address it as we are close to publishing a final draft of an education (admission to schools) Bill.

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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What of the minor works grant?

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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That is not relevant to this Bill. The minor works grant was announced in November 2013 and we are still working on it.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I will not press the amendment. This legislation will go before the other House and my colleague, Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, will deal with it. He will decide whether to table this amendment again in light of the legislation the Minister publishes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 22 not moved.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 23:


In page 9, lines 18 and 19, to delete all words from and including “deletion” in line 18 down to and including line 19 and substitute “ “substitution of “authorised” for “administered”.”.
Senator Reilly has proposed amendment No. 24 and she will speak more eloquently than I on that. Amendment No. 23 relates to the good part of the Bill and the success of student universal support Ireland, SUSI. One of the last interactions in this house with the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Quinn, was to compliment him on the fact that SUSI's first-year teething problems had been overcome dramatically. He sent a list of officers in each county to deal with queries. The lady in charge of the Wexford section instantly solved an issue I raised. Given that there were brickbats in the first year of SUSI, there should be plaudits for what has happened subsequently. The fact that the issue of SUSI is not raised in the House much anymore means it must work well.
I wish to make a technical addition to the praise I have given. Is it administered by the Minister, now that it is in a separate body, or is it authorised by the Minister? I will leave this for the Minister's consideration. Could a person say it is no longer administered by the Minister because it has been delegated to a new body called SUSI? I hope this amendment is of use in framing the Bill.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I have tabled amendment No. 24 . It was discussed on Committee Stage and the Minister addressed it but I will refresh the memories of Members of the House. The purpose of the amendment was to address anomalies in the grant system that see students assessed on their parents' incomes unless they are over 23 years of age. A student under 23 years of age will be assessed on his or her own income only if he or she can prove he or she is estranged from his or her parents. The purpose of amendment No. 24 is to expand the range of information acceptable to verify a claim of estrangement for the purposes of a student grant. At the time the Minister mentioned different pieces of legislation that made provision for ministerial discretion. She said the legislation allows for latitude and for other criteria to be applied. She went on to say that this amendment will replicate existing legislation but that if she reviews the scheme she will consider this.

This is an important issue that has been raised with me since. Significant problems exist despite discretion and latitude and, as legislators, we must ensure these obstacles are removed from people's way - this applies particularly to access to education. If young people under 23 years of age are blocked from access to grants they are blocked from access to education. The Youth Guarantee scheme makes sure all young people under 25 years of age have access to education and training and obstacles blocking access to income from a SUSI grant or the like should be removed.

The Minister spoke on this matter on Committee Stage and said she will be willing to examine this if she revises the scheme. This amendment has been resubmitted on the basis that it has been raised with us as a constant background issue.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Does Senator Power wish to speak on amendment No. 24?

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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This is an important issue as there are always difficulties when people fall through gaps in a student grant scheme. I appreciate that there must be generalised rules that are fair to everyone and set criteria but there are always problems relating to people who, for good reason, cannot live at home. Some people leave home because of serious issues there. When I was student union president in Trinity College I worked with students under 23 years of age who could not stay at home due to violence and a lack of safety. They did not qualify for grants in their own right. At the time this was dealt with through the student assistance fund, discretionary funding by the college to look after people ineligible for grants. The college had discretion but that fund has been cut dramatically in recent years.

Some of the colleges ran out early last year and were not able to assist anybody after a particular date. That is a serious problem because we are talking about the most vulnerable students. Those who qualify for the fund are in the most dire financial straits. I echo that there is a need for a more flexible system and that it is welcome that the Minister has indicated that she will look at it. If she is not in a position to respond to the amendment, she might indicate whether it is something she will take forward, as discussed on Committee Stage. The cut to the student assistance fund is a big problem and I ask her to do something about it if she has any discretion within her funding approaching the end of the year. It is a big problem for the most vulnerable students who are in very difficult situations and whom the colleges would have been able to help in years past.

1:00 pm

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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I find it bizarre that, when a lone parent raising a child applies for a third level grant to go back to college, he or she to be assessed on his or her parents' means, despite the fact that he or she is a parent himself or herself. This is something we really ought to consider at some stage, if not under this Bill then some other one.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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On amendment No. 23, this provision is really just to clarify that the PLC schemes are now administered by SOLAS rather than by the Minister since its establishment. That is the purpose in using the same language, to ensure these students qualify for grants and that there is no doubt about it. As that is the purpose, I am not proposing to accept the amendment because it would involve the use of different language.

The reason I do not propose to accept amendment No. 24 is that we already have a provision in section 16(3) of the Student Support Act, 2011, whereby the Minister may specify a class of applicant or criteria that may be considered in determining whether an applicant is a student of a particular class. Under that Act there is a statutory instrument in which we should make any change to be made. I am sympathetic to the case made by the three Senators who spoke on that issue. We all know of cases in which people are living away from their parents and proving estrangement from them can be difficult. In some cases people have formed new families, as Senator Marie Moloney described. However, I do not believe this legislation is the appropriate place in which to address this issue.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Is amendment No. 23 being pressed?

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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No, it is not. I thank the Minister for her explanation of the transfer of responsibility to other bodies. The wording included in the Bill encompasses the issue.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Is amendment No. 24 being moved?

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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No, it is not, in the light of what the Minister has just said. This is not the appropriate legislation and there are better ways to make the changes that we want to make. When the Bill is brought before the Dáil, my colleagues there will look at how they might best work with the Minister in making these changes.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 not moved.

Question put: "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 17.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Darragh O'Brien and Diarmuid Wilson.

Question declared carried.

Question proposed: "That Fifth Stage be taken now."

Question put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 18.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Thomas Byrne.

Question declared carried.